A long-time advocate both for cannabis and against the intrusive nature of Big Brother, Jesse Ventura stands for the rights of Americans. His varied life spun him through service as a military veteran of the Navy, a professional wrestling career, actor, mayor, governor, political commentator, show host, and author. We reached out to him to get his take on cannabis, politics, and his new book, The Marijuana Manifesto.
Permeating our everyday lives
Going through your life and your career as a politician you had a big stand on personal liberties. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Well you know to me the government is in every aspect of our lives. I remember when I was governor one day before lunch I told my entire staff to go out to lunch and come back and tell me something that the government doesn’t get involved in with your life.
It was interesting because every person that came back had something that I can counter. I even had somebody say ‘Sleeping’ and I said, ‘No because remember on that mattress that you sleep on there’s that tag that says you rip it off by penalty of law?’
Is cannabis a crime against yourself?
And drug control is the worst?
How can you, in a free society, commit a crime against yourself? That’s what drug usage is. With freedom there’s going to be good and bad. You have to accept both. Freedom means you are free to be stupid for lack of a better term. You know, how for many people using drugs that might be stupid, but it’s a crime against themselves. And if they do become addicts, why do we treat addiction criminally when it is a medical condition?
If you could magically make coffee disappear tomorrow, you would have murders over it! People laugh at that but take a serious look. People are addicted to caffeine. They need that fix everyday. What’s the difference between that and any other drug on a daily basis? Everybody’s got their thing.
I grew up in the sixties. Marijuana is to Rock and Roll what beer is to baseball so imagine if you couldn’t go to the ballgame and get a beer and a hot dog. There’d be riots there, and yet when I grew up with rock and roll and you went to a concert you didn’t even have to have any. People brought joints and just sent them down the line. You go there with nothing and leave stoned in them days and no harm happened. Nobody was hurt.
On the DEA
Would you say it’s a basic violation of the 3-branch system of government for the DEA to act as judge jury and executioner when it comes to controlled substances?
Absolutely! Absolutely… I would rather see the DEA abolished! Take all those police and resources and let’s switch it to child molestation. Let’s put them to work catching child molesters and sexual predators and people like that that harm people…That’s where our focus should be, not on whether or not people are pot smokers.It’s horrible…
The DEA they made this latest ruling that marijuana is going to stay Schedule I and be classified with heroin. That in itself is ridiculous because the DEA is a law enforcement agency. What right do they have to control the laws and control scientific evidence and scientific research. They don’t.
Police don’t make laws, they simply enforce them. Elected officials make laws. But in the case of the DEA, ‘Oh no. The elected officials are out of the game, the people are out of the game…’ It’s a conflict of interest. They decide what marijuana is and they’re making a living off it. You’re talking about jobs survival here they need marijuana illegal so they can keep busting people and keep collecting their paychecks and keep confiscating with seizure laws personal cars homes and everything else in the War on Drugs.
Inherent racism and militarized police forces
What side effects has the War on Drugs created in our society?
All this trouble you’re having between police and the people right now. Racism plays a big role in it and you can’t deny it, but racism is not something you’re going to clean up in one generation. But as far as the War on Drugs, the War on Drugs has caused the militarization of the police force. It’s caused the police to violate the Constitution, to violate the Bill of Rights.
It’s also created the mentality within the police force, when they bust down doors for drugs, they come in with an attitude of ‘shoot-first-ask-questions-later’ and that’s permitted now throughout the police forces throughout the entire United States.
On the benefits of legalizing cannabis
Oh, the economic benefits will be astounding! The tax collection in the states that’s going to happen because every state and local community to legalize have done that. Let’s look at a few economic benefits: Colorado has, what, 300 million dollars to spend? And they’re spending it on schools.
The state of Washington’s judicial budget has already fallen 15% now that they’re not busting for it. As a former govorner I can assure you, a 15% drop in their budget is huge! We’re talking about jobs out there waiting to happen.
Bryant Gumbel did a thing on tailgating at the Denver Stadium. Right now nobody’s throwing up in the parking lot anymore, nobody’s fighting. Why? They’re smoking pot instead of drinking alcohol. If I was given the option of going to a heavy pot party or a heavy drinking party I would choose the pot party because I know for one thing there wouldn’t be any violence and number two nobody would throw up on me.
Follow the money
Oh yeah. It all comes down to ‘follow the money’. Here’s the problem with the legalization of marijuana anyone in their backyard can plant 12 plants. That means the government doesn’t get a cut do they? That’s why Big Pharma don’t want it because they want you taking your pills. They can up the prices; they can charge your insurance a hundred times more than the pills work and it’s all about the profit.
It helps to understand that every time someone gets arrested it costs you money. Your health insurance would pay for all these pharmaceutical pills that don’t work but they won’t pay for marijuana that does work because it’s illegal? Let’s go to something totally off-the-wall. Prostitution, right? You’ve got two consenting adults. They can do anything sexually they want to as long as both are consenting, correct?
Yet prostitution is illegal. Because of the exchange of money. That’s the only reason. If one person charges the other person then you got an exchange of money of which the government wants to be the pimp. They need a cut of that money.
The irony of Big Pharma & the White House?
What else makes me laugh is Big Pharma and their ads. Watch TV and see how many of them there are, and every one ends with ‘talk to your doctor.’ If you’re telling your doctor what you need, he’s not a doctor. He’s a dealer.
There’s a lot of people that wish you would run for President, and I know you’ve said before it would be a real pain, but seeing the way the election’s going right now and the future of the country…?
This year would have been great one to run, and the Libertarians did contact me twice to come to their convention. I gave it serious thought but in the end I passed on it.
I was up for the campaign. I would be up to debate them (and shame them into letting me to debate them because that’s how you win. If you don’t get in the debates, you don’t have a chance and they control the debates, and by they, I mean the Democrats and the Republicans).
But the problem I had was: I’m 65 now and I thought ‘do I really want to do this till I’m 70?’, and I couldn’t go in 100%. And on a job like that you’re cheating yourself and cheating everybody that voted for you if you’re not committed 100%.
I couldn’t make that commitment to myself, to my wife and I. So I chose to pass.
Do you think that would be a possibility for you down the road?
Right now you have two candidates whos disapproval ratings are higher than their approval ratings. Third-party candidates are going to do exceptionally well this year.
But maybe my day is coming… Maybe after they elect Hillary and get the first woman out of the way, and they don’t see any change to anything. When they still see corporate takeovers and everything ‘business as usual’… maybe Hillary could be beaten in 2020.
Whether I do it or not, or attempt to do it, I don’t know. I’m also the frame of mind right now that… [the corruption and bribery in the system] has caused me to become so sick of this country that… I’ll either run for President in 2020, or I won’t be living in the United States in 2020 [laughs]. And I say a bit tongue in cheek, but not the part about living here.
Jesse Ventura’s new book
It’s a book that advocates the full legalization of marijuana. My cowriter Jen Hobbs and I tell the truth about the DEA. We got a big boost by Steve Kubby, who wrote the forward… [He] is the founder of the American Medical Marijuana Association. He is an activist, auther, political candidate, speaker, cannabis Warrior, policy advisor, and cancer survivor.People need to read this book to hear the truth about marijuana and get over these old wives tales and the Reefer Madness prevailing in people’s thoughts. That marijuana is some sort of evil drug. It’s a complete medical plant. For those that smoke it for the euphoric feeling, it’s mental health, and it certainly helps physically with so many things.The movement has to be at the grassroots level. You start locally you pass laws. As soon as it hits that magical number of 50 states… when all 50 states have legalized, what will the federal government do? That’s the way to win this war: at the ballot box.How shameful is it that the United States of America, which is supposedly the icon of freedom, has more people in prison than any other country in the world? How do we sing our National Anthem? If our nation is afraid of a plant, we are neither brave nor free.
The Marijuana Manifesto
If you want to read more of Jesse Ventura’s insights into cannabis and freedom, check out his book, which comes to stores September 6th. You might especially enjoy several sections where he mentions HERB. He also includes, when talking about cannabis cooking, our step by step guide to decarboxylation.
Thanks for the love, Jesse!